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Are the Holidays Holy Days for Everyone?

Slowing down in a hurried season

For clergy and those who serve and/or are employed at a church, Sundays are work. For years church was work for me. I was “on” all the time as a preacher/elder, Minister of Pastoral Care, and Director of Discipleship. Now, Sundays are no longer worship workdays for me. I am thankful for that. And I am also thankful for many people who regularly put long hours in on Sundays so the rest of us can
worship God collectively. 

The holidays are similar. There are extra services, activities, concerts, and humanitarian aid, and at least with me, there were lots of funerals during the holidays. And as a result, work, though it is good work in the name of the Lord, piles up. Moreover, seminarians, seminary alumni, and those who care for them have experienced the added weight of finishing final papers and projects at the end of the semester. And let us not forget the commitments we have to our friends, loved ones, and our own health! Wow.

We should strive to make rest, relaxation, and fun an integral part of your ministry. This is counter-cultural.

That said, it can be stressful, exhausting, and hard to recover from. No rest for the weary! This, my friends, is why we all have to insist on rest, relaxation, silence, solitude, and contemplation during the holidays. “But, Professor Graves, you have no idea, I have children at home, parents and other family members to take care of and, and….” I know. So did Jesus. But as Dallas Willard and many others have said, Jesus was not in a hurry. He took time out as much as he could. And sometimes when he tried to, people ran on foot to catch him and his disciples when their boat landed on the opposite shore of a lake. Still, he had compassion upon them. There will be days like that.

But the problem is when every day becomes like that. Thus, we must set up boundaries for our health and sanity, as well as the health and sanity of the communities and loved ones surrounding us. Hear me; you do not have to do everything and be at all events and meetings—during the holidays—or any other time. Ask for help. For volunteers. Tell people you are tired and need rest, so you don’t burn out. Maybe slip into a service at another church or gathering so you can be fed. Most people will have compassion for you and try to chip in as best they can. 

God does not want you to burn out for him.

And when you set boundaries and ask for help, it is healthy and beneficial for you and for those who look up to you and depend on you. You are setting an example, like Jesus did. You should make rest, relaxation, and fun an integral part of your ministry. This is counter cultural. You can tell those in your spheres that it helps you to love them better. This is true! Ask someone to watch the kids or those under your guardianship for a bit. God does not want you to burn out for him. He wants you to live for him and for the life of the world as God’s life overflows through you into the life of others. Your wholeness in the life of God, your holiness, reproduces itself in the lives of those who are around you and in creation too—often without you even knowing it.

A photo of Marlena Graves

About the author

Marlena Graves, PhD, ABD

Marlena has been on the pastoral staff at several churches, worked at non-profits, been on the residence life staff at a university, and worked for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) – for and with migrant farmworkers in the Midwest and South and the minority community in Toledo, OH. She continues to labor alongside others for justice, for human rights. Since 2015, she has been an adjunct professor at Winebrenner Seminary in the areas of discipleship and spiritual formation. She has written for a wide variety of venues like Christianity Today’s Hermeneutics Blog (now CT Women),, and Our Daily Bread where she was a bylined regularly contributing writer. And also for places like, Think Christian, Faith Street, Relevant, and publications by (in) courage and the Zondervan Women’s Study Bible. Marlena is a former member and board member of the Redbud Writers Guild.